Nets are being cut down, trophies are being hoisted and at the end of the day, the NCAA is walking away as the real winner. Many say that college athletes should be afforded a small stipend that would serve as spending money, others say that it wouldn't work, nor do they deserve benefits. Here's my take from both sides:
Isn't Education the Most Important Aspect of College?
First and foremost, the main purpose of college to most is to have an opportunity to receive a chance at getting higher-leveled education. College sports have no mercy on that. Sometimes, college athletes are required to miss class due to tournament games or bowl games. Take the NCAA Men's Division-I tournament for example. Sure, it seems very hard to schedule games around typical class times and still finish out tournaments quickly and efficiently but missing up to a quarter of classes for "March Madness" doesn't seem like a great trade off. Take an example from a "what if?" situation. The 2014 Syracuse Men's basketball team would have to miss 17 total classes, which would make up 24.2 percent of their semester had they made a Final Four run. Ridiculous. Most of that money made from tournaments and players doesn't go back into the classroom, not directly anyway.
Hi, My Name Is...
Nearly a billion dollars in revenue is what the NCAA takes in annually from college basketball alone, nearly $11 billion from college sports combined. Take that number into consideration. Players are the ones paying the bills. They keep the seats filled. They generate the revenue. The money made off of them brings their amateur status into question. Money is being made off of their names and jerseys, just as if they were professional athletes. Of course, they never see any of that money. Players aren't allowed to use their names as moneymaking resources. Instead, the NCAA can milk their names as they see fit. Players can however make money, just not for the sake of their names (if that makes sense). It is a NCAA rules violation if players use their names, photographs or appearances to generate revenue for themselves. Adequate health benefits for players going out and risking their bodies for the sake of the business that is the NCAA isn't even provided. It however isn't illegal for the NCAA to use those same things to make jerseys, video games, commercials and other various types of promotions to generate revenue for a "non-profit organization", which the NCAA says it is. Research the Ed O'Bannon case, then you'll understand where I'm coming from.
Team & Player Success Serves as a Marketing Tool
Player success also serves as a lure for prospective students. Ask a high school senior what's one of the things they look for when application time rolls around. Most times it will be a school with a great, polarized player or a school that possesses a team who is usually good. For example, even with their historically low acceptance rate (16.6 percent in 2014), Georgetown superstar center Patrick Ewing increased the application rate by 47 percent during their glory days of the early 1980s according to Forbes.com. TV exposure and other media avenues served as an aid to the allure of what being a Georgetown student was all about, getting a world class education, while being able to watch some of the best basketball the country had to offer against many other Goliaths of the time. Why can't the players be the ones to thank for making schools that much more attractive?
Share the Wealth, Coach.
Nowadays, most coaches in the major college sports are being paid at least $100,000 a year to guide players and not actually execute on the court or field. Does that make coaches irrelevant? No, they are very important to a team's success, but their worth is being overblown by the gaudy contracts they sign year to year. Take the University of Kentucky's Head Coach John Calipari for example, a very well-known, successful, championship winning college coach known for his masterful recruiting prowess. He just inked a 7-year $52 million contract. Nick Saban, championship winning head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide is the highest paid college football coach at over $7.1 million a year. Not to take anything away from these coaches again, but you cannot attribute revenue to their respective schools to the performance of the coach. Out of 50 states, 40 of them have college coaches (basketball or football) as their highest paid employee. All of the revenue is being sucked up by those in authority (coaches, athletic directors and other administrators), not a dime is being placed back in the hands of the players they have to witness struggle off of the field or court. You don't have to shell out millions of dollars to the coach to make your sport profitable. Share some of that wealth coach!
Outside of their scholarships, college athletes don't have the luxury to live a balanced life outside of athletic activities. Sure their scholarships cover meals, housing and other things most other scholarships will cover, but for all of the hard work, dedication and time (most athletes are performing over 40 hours a week) players put in, a token of appreciation should be handed out. Players don't have access to unlimited funds, or funds period; that would allow them to enjoy the world outside of athletics. Players then are tempted to take things that are handed to them, in most cases free by agents or boosters. They then run the risk of getting caught (though the odds are low), punished due to NCAA regulations against it, and left with their reputations tainted. In my opinion, they aren't the real criminals. The people who offer these fortunes to vulnerable, young athletes, many of whom come from low-income families are the ones to blame. The issue of impermissible benefits doesn't seem like one that may ever exit the NCAA as a whole, but it can be curbed in many ways, one is of course allowing players to get paid. Maybe that will reduce a player's interest, as pay from the NCAA will allow them to do some of what the benefits would've allowed.
Paying athletes upwards of $2,000-$3,000 would be almost impossible and it would make Title IX irrelevant (because of low-revenue earning sports such as volleyball and wrestling), but the thought of providing players with a little extra spending money would help stop the smaller illegal benefits. Completely putting an end to it? Almost impossible, the big-money violators will always be lurking, waiting for it's next gullible victim.
But, I mean...
Look at it this way, some may argue that players are already well paid; they receive a FREE education they otherwise cannot afford in most cases. Of course, in today's world, most athletes do not take full advantage of the education they are awarded. This leaves graduation rates for athletes very low, and many never come back to finish up their schooling. It's all about the money; it makes the world go around. But, without athletes, there wouldn't be TV contracts, jersey sales and seat fillers. Let me reiterate an earlier point, athletes are the revenue makers, they are the real breadwinners, some type of shared revenue deal should be in place correct?
To make things work, paying players in general cannot be based on worth. Naismith Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky cannot be the LeBron James of moneymakers while his bench warming teammate receives little to anything. You also cannot decide to only pay male athletes and leave females hanging out to dry. That defeats the purpose of equality and Title IX. No, I don't think athletes should receive pay that would give them workforce like salaries, but a reasonable spending stipend would be sufficient. However, many will say that athlete pay will most likely never happen because some athletic programs are struggling to survive just paying coaches and other administrators while other universities are making killings off of their strong programs, usually basketball and football. What about those same schools and their volleyball programs or other low-revenue generating sports? Do those athletes deserve the same amount of money? Under law, most definitely, but if you put the law aside, the answer is no. That's where things get tricky. The real question is how much is enough? Should there be a scale based on how much revenue the school generates analogous with how much is shelled out players? Would the financial burden be too huge for many schools to efficiently overcome? If different amounts of money were offered across universities due to financial ability, wouldn't this taint the recruiting process and make it less genuine than it already is? This then would widen the parity between teams in college athletics.
Who knows if pay for play for amateur athletes will ever come close to being a reality? Who's to say if it will really work or not? Who's to say it will increase graduation rates, decrease recruiting battles, or curb impermissible benefits, among other things? All that can be inferred is that something needs to be done to finally quiet some of the questions and worries surrounding the issue.